yaniv katan soccer macabi haifa 248.
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After 10 months of highs and lows, controversy and drama, it is finally time to announce the Jerusalem Post's Most Valuable Player awards for the 2008/09 basketball and soccer seasons.
You can argue that Yaniv Katan and Doron Perkins weren't the best players in their respective leagues this season.
However, no two other players were as valuable to their teams as the skillful striker and proficient playmaker.
Katan and Perkins are the MVPs not just because of their personal performances on the field, but mainly for their ability to make the players around them better.
No player has been criticized more than Yaniv Katan over the last three seasons.
Since he returned to Maccabi Haifa from an unsuccessful six month stint at English Premier League club West Ham United in the summer of 2006, Katan has endured ridicule and scorn which would have crippled the careers of many other players.
His huge salary and mediocre performances made him an easy target for fans and journalists alike, and at one point everyone seemed to be taking a shot at the 28-year-old.
However, no one is mocking Katan anymore.
The striker had a supremely successful season. He scored six goals and passed 10 assists during the season, but his contribution to Haifa's league championship win goes far beyond the basic statistics.
Katan was Haifa's undoubted leader on the field, the man the team turned to when all else failed.
His experience from five previous title-winning campaigns was exactly what Maccabi needed in a tight title race with Hapoel Tel Aviv, which wasn't decided until the final weeks of the season.
He was simply superb in the 1-0 victory over Hapoel last month, which all-but clinched the championship, running the Tel Aviv defense ragged all night long as well as scoring the winner.
Katan's contribution to the team was summed up best by Haifa coach Elisha Levy in an interview following the Hapoel game.
"Apart from his ability on the field Katan also brings to the team positive energy, passion and a fierce will to win," Levy said. "That is why I kept him in our starting lineup even when he suffered a dip in form. He was undoubtedly the best player in the league this season."
Doron Perkins's role in the Maccabi Haifa Heat's outstanding season was actually more evident than ever in the team's longest losing streak of the league campaign.
The 26-year-old was forced to miss four league games midway through the season with a groin injury, and his absence cost Haifa dearly.
Avi Ashkenazi's team won its first game without Perkins, but would lose the next three by an average 15.7 points, and also came up just short in the State Cup final without its star playmaker.
After an excellent season with Belgian club Bree, in which he was named league MVP, Perkins was snapped up by Haifa last summer and was a success story right from the start.
Perkins averaged 15.8 points, 5.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game in the regular season and was the key component in the team built by Ashkenazi.
The Alaska native not only orchestrated the side's play on offense, but also played a vital part in Haifa's excellent defense, which allowed the least amount of points in the league during the regular season.
Just as impressive was the fact that Perkins knew how to step up his play for the playoffs and Final Four, taking his team all the way to the BSL title game.
Perkins averaged 20.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.8 steals in 34.3 minutes on court during the postseason, and did whatever he could on both ends of the court to take his team as far as it could possibly go.
It may not have been enough to deny Maccabi Tel Aviv the championship, but it was more than enough to prove he was the BSL's most valuable player of the season.
Jeremy Last contributed to this report.